Electric Rideshare Scooters May Do More Damage Than Good
Everyday, navigating the neighborhoods and streets of popular American cities gets easier and easier. On top of traditional means of travel such as walking, biking, cabs, rideshares and bus/train service, now you can zoom from block to block on an electric rideshare scooter. The electric scooter wave is sweeping through major American cities with companies like Lime and Bird leading the charge. Unfortunately for some, the short walk up the street seemingly made easier by an electric scooter ends in major injuries. In addition to inconsistent city regulations for operations, issues of product durability and safety are major causes for concern as more and more scooters populate the streets.
How They Work
Electric scooter companies like Lime and Bird are transportation sharing companies which rent the scooters to users through free smart phone apps. The app includes a real time map showing the user where available scooters are located. The user simply scans a bar code on the scooter then adds a payment method and away they go. The user is charged by the minute for using the scooter and can park the scooter anywhere when he/she is finished riding. Once a user parks the scooter it reappears on the digital map for someone else to use.
While trips around the block are a bit easier on an electric scooter, trips to the emergency room are more frequent for scooter riders. Across the country, hospitals are treating more and more people for injuries resulting from electric scooter wrecks and malfunctions. In late November 2018, San Francisco General Hospital estimated that their emergency room was treating 10 injuries a week on average ranging from significant bruising and road rash to severe head trauma. Other hospitals have seen the same trend with some reporting even more injuries. Dell Seton hospital in Austin, Texas reports up to 10 injuries a day.
This uptick in injuries is a result of rider errors, poor and inconsistent safety procedures and defective scooters. Rider errors are common because the riders are often inexperienced. An inexperienced rider zooming around busy city streets amongst cars and pedestrians is an obvious recipe for trouble, which also speaks to the inconsistent and insufficient safety procedures.
When a rider unlocks one of the scooters there is very little required training. The Bird app advises the riders to wear a helmet and to “ride in bike lanes.” Lime on the other hand has an instructional video for using the scooters, however riders are not required to watch the video before using the scooter. Also, despite the companies’ encouragement to wear helmets, most riders don’t and very few cities have laws requiring helmets. Inconsistent laws across states and municipalities add to the safety problem. For example in some states and cities it is illegal to ride an electric scooter on the sidewalk, but in others the scooters can only be ridden on the sidewalks.
In addition to rider error and insufficient safety procedures, defective scooters can cause injuries to the rider. In October 2018 Lime recalled approximately 2,000 of the company’s electric scooters after reports that the scooters were spontaneously catching fire due to a battery issue. Shortly thereafter, Lime was forced to issue another recall due to reports that scooters would break apart during use. Lime notified users that the riding platform could “crack or break if ridden off a curb at a high speed.” These manufacturing defects are a significant risk to not only scooter riders but to others who share the streets and sidewalks with these products.
If you or a loved one is injured in an event involving electric rideshare scooters, its imperative that you contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Cases involving these products involve complex legal issues including the user agreement each rider agrees to and preserving the potentially defective scooter. The team at McCartney Stucky is full of experienced litigators who can listen to your story and advise you on your potential legal remedies.
 Electric scooters are now disrupting wrists, elbows and heads, Dara Kerr, Cnet, available at https://www.cnet.com/electric-scooters-by-bird-lime-are-causing-injuries-and-accidents, November 28, 2019.